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New Clues on How Cancer Spreads

Cells Within a Tumor May Pave the Way for Cancer's Spread
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 27, 2006 -- New clues about how tumors prepare for cancer's deadly spread may open up new avenues for cancer prevention and treatment.

A Japanese study suggests that early in lung cancer's progression, cells within a tumor may pave the way for cancer's invasion by triggering processes that allow for the spread of disease. By interrupting these signals, researchers were able to block the development of cancer's spread to lungs in mice.

Cancer advances through a process of metastasis in which the cancer spreads from the initial site to other areas of the body, making it more deadly and difficult to treat. By learning more about the processes that trigger this spread, researchers say they may be able to develop new cancer treatment strategies.

Tumors Prepare for Invasion

In the study, researcher Sachie Hiratsuka of Tokyo Women's Medical University School of Medicine and colleagues studied mice bred to develop cancer.

They found certain chemicals were produced in the lung by factors secreted by the primary tumor. These chemicals then prompted the migration of both inflammatory and tumor cells to the lung.

Researchers found an amplifying circuit was created between the primary tumor and the targeted area to facilitate the tumor's invasion. But interrupting this circuit of signals effectively stopped the invasion or spread of cancer to the lungs in mice.

If further studies confirm these results, published in Nature Cell Biology, researchers say targeting this preparatory period in tumors may open up a new avenue to prevent the spread of cancer.

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